Alfred Place Baptist Church

6:21-22 The marks of the true Christian

Ephesians 6:19&20 “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”

When a church is looking for a pastor what criteria should it use to ascertain the men who stand in its pulpit and lead the service? Haven’t many congregations been corrupted by the demon of charm? The former Member of Parliament, Gyles Brandeth, was writing in this week’s Spectator, and he listed the four most charming men he had ever met, John Profumo, Bill Clinton, Desmond Tutu and the actor Vincent Price. They all had the essential qualities of the charmer, to appear unconcerned with self, to give others his undivided attention and possessing impeccable manners. On the back of charm another gospel enters fine Christian churches and destroys them. I am asking what criteria should we employ for selecting a preacher? What kind of minister should we be listening to each Sunday? These verses in our text are very helpful because they give us the Holy Spirit’s job description of preachers whom he has gifted and whom he indwells.

1. THE TRUE PREACHER MAKES KNOWN THE MYSTERY OF THE GOSPEL.

You listen to two people sitting alongside you in a train. “What are you reading?” the one asks. “Oh it’s a mystery novel,” the other replies, adding smiling, “that’s what my mother used to call it, a murder mystery, a whodunit.” A ‘mystery’ is a book by an author like Agatha Christie in which you are kept on tenterhooks until the very last page. When the New Testament speak of a ‘mystery’ it is not describing something dark and unexplained and enigmatic; it is quite the reverse. Here is something which now shines brightly, a truth that all the world may know because God has disclosed it. He has opened the cupboard door and you can see what it contains. He has pulled the curtain aside and what was hidden is now revealed. “Come and see!” Christ’s preachers cry. The mystery of the gospel is an open secret.

Here is an Ethiopian official sitting in his vehicle being taken back to northeast Africa . He has bought a book and is reading it aloud but its contents are a mystery to him. He is reading these words in the prophecy of Isaiah chapter 53; “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth” (Isa. 53:3-7). God sends a Christian named Philip, a preacher of the mystery of the gospel, to this man and he says to the African, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The man says to him, “Tell me please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” Then we are given a fine description of a true preacher making known the mystery of the gospel in these words, “Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:35). The Old Testament is no longer a mystery. A preacher makes it plain. The Gentile nations no longer live in darkness. They now possess this open secret, and everywhere in the Mediterranean basin Christians like Paul and Peter and Philip were going everywhere and spilling the beans on the coming of God’s Son, the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

The gospel is no longer a mystery. What does its message consist of? The basic gospel is clearly expressed in the words of the Lord to Jonah: “Preach to them the preaching that I bid thee” (Jonah 3:2). To prophets and apostles that preaching is given by direct revelation. So Paul can ask the Ephesian church to pray that words may be given to him – as when he stood on the Areopagus or preached to the crowd in Derbe and Lystra. We read those very words now that God gave Paul two thousand years ago. They are recorded for the whole church in the Acts of the Apostles. Today I don’t get divine revelation of infallible truth while I preach, and neither has any man since the days of the apostles, but true preachers are given illumination and understanding of the word of God both in preparation and while we are preaching. The mystery of the gospel which we preach is found in the Scriptures. They are God’s gift to us. We don’t invent them or originate them or preach our own private opinions. We simply deliver that which we’ve received from God. [Let me rely on some observations in the Banner of Truth magazine, Issue 164, “Ambassadors for Christ” pages 7-9, by D. Macleod.]

But there is something more; it is the gospel itself which is the heart of the mystery. What the gospel tells our hearers is of primary importance. Of course, nothing that God has revealed is superfluous, but Paul makes plain that in the great body of Christian truth there is that which is to be preached first of all, or in primary place. The first things must be the staple elements of gospel preaching. I was preaching in Belfast last Sunday and a man said to me afterwards, “I loved the fact that you went straight to the gospel. There are some preachers and they go to the Town Hall via Hong Kong .” The faithful minister of the mystery of the gospel must be ‘most in the main things’. What, then, are these main things?

i] First, the gospel mystery is about God.

It is tempting to assume that we begin with Jesus Christ. But this is not the biblical order. The foundations are laid historically in the Old Testament doctrine of God, with its emphasis on his unity, livingness, holiness and loving-kindness. To put it otherwise: the designation ‘God’ is not something of which man by nature has clear and distinct ideas. Nor is the word ‘God’ something which means the same to the follower of Christ and the follower of the Mohammed, for example. There is no common ground at this point between ourselves and those we evangelize. Men are largely ignorant of God and such knowledge as they do have they pervert and distort. Hence the need to begin at this most basic level, bringing home to hearts and consciences that God is, and explaining clearly the most elementary features of his character as Scripture describes him. He is the living God, always immanent in human history and sometimes erupting into it with dramatic effect. He is the holy God, a great God and a terrible, a consuming fire. He is a God of absolute integrity, who condones nothing, and into whose hands it is terrible to fall. And he is the God of loving-kindness, consistent in his covenant-love. There is no God like him, who pardons iniquity and pleads with sinners to come to him. This must be our starting point. Unless men are aroused to an awareness of God, unless their preconceived notions of him are challenged, and unless they are led towards a biblical understanding of his glory and grace, none of the rest of our gospel will make any sense.

ii] Secondly, we must preach God’s word as to the plight of man.

Without a sense of need, no man will turn to Christ; and to create that sense of need the preacher must convince his hearers of sin. Human conduct must be placed, not in the light of conscience or of the prevailing moral consensus, but in the light of the law of God. Men must be made to feel the urgency of the divine imperatives and be driven remorselessly towards the conclusion that their lives are indefensible. We preach a sinner’s Saviour of whom the righteous feel they have no need. They are weighed in God’s great balances and found wanting, but they must be driven beyond that. They must be shown not only their sin, but their misery. This was the conviction which Jonah so impressed upon the residents of Nineveh : God’s word of destruction lay over their city. We are exceedingly reluctant today to give due emphasis to this, but if men are to avail themselves of deliverance they must see their peril; and it is utterly indispensable that God’s condemnation and wrath and anathema be preached with the utmost tenderness and solemnity. We must also remember that the mind of man is as closed against this aspect of truth as it is against the message of the glory of Christ. Only the Holy Spirit can convince of sin. It was God, we must remember, who broke David’s bones (Ps 51.8).

iii] Thirdly, we must preach God’s word about his Son.

It is only at this point that we begin to utter the gospel, the good news, with its four great emphases: Christ died for our sins, Christ rose again, Christ is Lord, and in Christ salvation is offered to all. We should note that this is a message. It is news. It is in the indicative, not in the imperative. The gospel is not a list of principles or requirements or standards. It is news; it is narrative and proclamation. We should note, too, that evangelism involves exposition of the profoundest doctrines of the New Testament. We must preach the atonement — not simply the fact that Christ died [which in itself is no gospel] but the great word of interpretation: Christ died for. He died for our sins [on account of]; he died for sinners [on behalf of]; and he died for his own [in place of].

Similarly, we must preach the incarnation. We cannot avoid the question, Who is he? Not only will the world ask, but it is the very heart of our message. You received the message of Christ Jesus as Lord (Gal 2.6). In the very earliest Christian evangelism we find the immensely complex claim: “God has made that very Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2.36). One of the primary concerns of evangelism must be to secure belief in the absolute significance of Jesus as the only Saviour, the universal Lord and the living God.

Furthermore, the word about the Son of God involves argument and demonstration. This is especially true of the resurrection of Christ. The doctrine is not itself complex. He was dead. He is alive. He is alive because he rose from the dead. That is not unintelligible. But to many it is incredible. Hence in the New Testament the resurrection is always something to be proved rather than something to be explained. Our preaching of it is to be directed, not to men’s incomprehension, but to their incredulity. Christ was dead and buried and yet the tomb was empty. Christ was crucified and yet appeared repeatedly to the disciples. Christ had died and yet poured out his Spirit and restored the hope of his church. We must not overlook this. It is crucial in New Testament evangelism, standing in the forefront of virtually every specimen we have of the preaching of the apostolic church. Moreover, it is asserted and demonstrated not simply for its own sake, but because, once established, it can itself support the most momentous conclusions. It is the vindication of Jesus and the demonstration of his Messiahship and divine Sonship.

Finally, we preach the word of divine requirement. The message is not preached just so that men may admire it but so that they may respond to it. God requires a certain, clearly specified reaction. There is something in the realm of subjective experience and personal decision which is utterly indispensable if men are to know the benefits of salvation. Men must be born again. This is not in the strict sense a duty, because it is not something we do to ourselves. It is exclusively an act of God. But it is indispensable and should be preached as such. Those who desire to enter the kingdom must experience not some kind of mild reformation and readjustment. They must undergo a moral and spiritual transformation so radical that they are no longer the people they were, but new creations in Christ Jesus. The duty which corresponds to this and which we must urge upon our hearers is that they utter in all earnestness the prayer: “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Ps 51.10) ringing in men’s ears. So that is my first point that the true preacher makes known the mystery of this gospel.

2. THE TRUE PREACHER IS AN AMBASSADOR FOR THIS GOSPEL.

Paul tells these Ephesians that for this gospel he is an ambassador. In the world of Paul’s day an ambassador was a man prepared to travel to a foreign territory to represent his kingdom bearing a message and expressing the views of those who sent him. He was the enfleshment of the power he represented and he spoke up on its behalf. He might be an ambassador for the mighty Roman Empire , or an ambassador for a small city but either the one or the other he represented and pleaded on their behalf. Paul was an ambassador of Christ (2 Cor. 5:20) and an ambassador of the gospel (here in our text). Those are the only two places he describes himself as an ambassador, but his whole thinking and manner showed that this concept dominated his life. In what ways?

i] An ambassador is commissioned.

He is a man with authority, chosen by his king and sent to speak up on behalf of his kingdom. Paul was an ambassador sent from heaven. He spoke on behalf of God. More, when he spoke God was making his appeal through him. God was the active agent; Paul was merely the instrument he used. It was God’s voice people were hearing and God’s authority that demanded they responded. When Paul appealed to a congregation it was not a mater of his own personal opinion or his own mature pastoral reflection. Paul was not trying to think what would God say in these circumstances. When Paul spoke it was the very voice of God himself. “When you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as it actually is, the word of God” (I Thess. 2:13). The contemporary preacher is not an apostle but a man who speaks from God, and through the grace of God, and with the authority of God behind him. If the preacher’s message is consistent with the truth of God then God speaks through him. His words are significant; they carry the weight of heaven; they bring about brokenness, elevation and redemption.

ii] An ambassador has dignity.

Might he not be representing the most powerful country in the world? Should he not have a sober bearing? Aren’t powers of war and peace in his hands? He is no comedian. But what does Paul call himself here? “An ambassador in chains” (v.20). He is not talking of the gold chain of office which ambassadors wore on state occasions. Paul wore rusting heavy iron chains manacled to his wrists, chains that clinked and restricted, chains that preached to him every minute, “You’re a prisoner, your liberty has been taken from you.” What a state for an ambassador to be in! An ambassador might be in danger, and snubbed, and ignored. He might get a tongue lashing from the head of state he is visiting, but he would not be thrown into prison. That would be a declaration of war. It would be as if the very king he represented had been thrown into jail, but this had happened to Paul. He was writing this letter from the Roman prison, chained to Roman soldiers.

How fitting for Paul to wear that iron chain. His Master was despised and rejected of men. His King’s crown was made of thorns. His royal throne was a cross. If Paul stood before the world as Jesus’ representative then prison chains were the adornments he must wear. Let us take note, we who bear the name of Christ. Let’s not chafe if actual chains are put on us. Certainly every preacher has to operate under psychological and congregational and geographical chains. Our own chains are the credentials that show we are following the real Christ. We are not professionals, we are outcasts. We are aliens in this world; our citizenship is in heaven. The love of professionalism kills a man’s belief that he is sent by God to save people from hell and to make them Christ-exalting men in this world. What a difference between an ambassador of the world and an ambassador of Christ. God deliver us from that low, manipulating, contriving, simpering spirit. God give us courage to be ready for the chains. God set before us him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. God bless us with a poverty of spirit, and a mourning for sins, and a hunger and thirst for righteousness and a purity of heart. God grant us absolutely nothing the way the world sees it. May Christ be all in all.

iii] An ambassador has holy motives.

Joe Kennedy, the father of JFK, itched to be the British Ambassador for the USA , and he approached Roosevelt repeatedly until he was granted that honour. His motive was to be “the first Irishman to be Ambassador from the United States at the Court of St. James.” He had his reward . . . What motivates a man to be an ambassador for the Lord Christ? Two things;

The fear of the Lord. “Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men” (2 Cor. 5:11). How insignificant Paul felt himself to be compared to the King whom he served. To this King he must give account of all the deeds done in the body. Little reason he laboured in the gospel with a sense of weakness, and fear and trembling. What if gave his second best? What if he did not preach the word as faithfully as he should? What if he left his first love? There was hurtling towards him a day when all would be revealed. Should he not fear God? Should we not all fear God knowing it is appointed unto us all once to die and after death the judgment?

The love of God. That was the other motive to become an ambassador. He must have that. It is the counterbalance to the first. The fear without the love would result in a cringing sense of duty. The love without the fear would result in sentimentality. So Paul feared God and loved Christ too and that love compelled him to live for others, to get out of his room and visit and speak and pray with sinners, and endure much for the one he loved. We remember how that love had gripped the missionary C.T. Studd so that he famously said, “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for him.”

iv] An ambassador has a message.

The King did not send a man who was mealy mouthed, or hopelessly shy and tongue-tied. He sent a man who would speak up for him. The king would insist on loyalty. The message his ambassadors would speak was not one they had to invent, or be selective about. They didn’t speak to suit their own purposes or feather their own nests as a consequence. They didn’t adapt it to their own prejudices so that it was less complicated in their own eyes. It was no new message; they had been given it by their master and they were to convey exactly what they had been given.

Let God’s preachers proclaim the Bible, all the Bible, every part of it, in proportion and balance with what God has given to us. Let them not think they know better than the Bible. The Scriptures alone have authority and if a preacher today is to speak with authority then let him submit his thoughts to the Bible, and his opinions to the Bible and echo the word of God. Let him constantly ask himself how faithfully he is preaching Christ crucified. Let us tell people about the banquet God has prepared, the richness of the food and delight of the feast, but let us also tell them how to find this banquet, how to get there, and let us guide them to their place. Take it and eat it! Take it and eat it! It is for you.

v] The ambassador is commissioned to address the world.

Luther was God’s ambassador to Germany . Calvin spoke to the city of Geneva . Knox addressed Scotland . Whitefield traversed America and England . Wesley said that the world was his parish. Today’s preachers must never slip into the frame of mind that they are chaplains of some private religious club, especially a club which is fussy about whom it allows into membership. We need men who will break the mold and face their entire communities in the name of God conscious that the Creator has made them his heralds to speak to the whole cosmos on his behalf. I love to watch my fellow minister standing on the pavement in the middle of town preaching to the people as they walk up and down. I see him as an ambassador of God serving his king by bringing his message to the town. As I pushed an evangelistic paper through hundreds of doors during the week before Christmas I was saying to myself, “I am an ambassador in chains to Christ.” There is mercy for you who live the other side of the letter box, whoever you are, for Zacchaeus the bureaucratic thief, for Mary Magdalene full of demonic influences, for the persecutor Saul of Tarsus, for the cursing Peter, the adulterous murderous king David, yes there is mercy for them and so why not for every single person of Aberystwyth. Free grace for you! I have good news for you! I have a Saviour for you! A Shepherd who will care for you, a Priest whose own blood will wash away the stain of your guilt, a King who will protect you. The vilest offender who truly believes that moment from Jesus a pardon receives. Mercy abounds to all who will hear and obey the voice of the ambassador of Christ.

3. THE TRUE PREACHER IS FEARLESS AND CONSISTENT.

Listen to our text again, “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should” (vv.19&20). You see his consciousness of the pressures coming on him that would make him afraid. Paul wants to fearlessly make known the gospel, and then he repeats that concern, urging the Ephesians, “Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” He knew that he would be an ineffective preacher if he became afraid. Every preacher must be a liberated man. Liberated from what? From the ensnaring effects of the fear of men. Al Martin says, “You are never free to be an instrument of blessing to your people unless you are free from the effects of their smiles and their frowns. People know when you can be bought by their smiles and beaten by their frowns. It will not take them long to discern whether or not you are a man who is not affected either by their smiles or by their frowns. Such a man is a free man in Christ. The Word of God declares, ‘The fear of man brings a snare.’ Such fear will snare your tongue, so that when those flashes of spiritual light come to you in the pulpit, and there are applications that you know will sting and wound some choice member of the church, if your eye is to men, you will be unable to give utterance to that which you know you ought to. But when you are free from your people’s smiles or frowns, you are at liberty to be an instrument of blessing to them. I submit that if there is to be increased power in the pulpit, there must be a return to the purity of motivation, comprised in the fear of God” (Al Martin, What’s Wrong with Preaching Today?, Banner of Truth, p.14).

What hinders us from being faithful to men is really a form of self love. We love our own feelings so much that we are not willing to run the risk of offending people and getting them mad at us. Oh, they may perish in hell, but that’s all right just so long as they perish loving us. I have heard people say of certain ministers, “That man surely preached in a fearless manner.” That ought to be said of every preacher, because our love to men must be such that we are willing to communicate the truth, truth which they may not relish, but which is for their good and their salvation.

Not only is he to be fearless but consistent. It is easy to be fearless when everyone in the congregation supports your views, but men can be inconsistent. They plead too often that they are building up ‘relationships’ and ‘trust’ before they deal with flagrant patterns of ungodliness and heresy. Of course we are to become all things to all men; Paul’s approach to the Jews meeting in a synagogue was different from his approach to the Greeks meeting in Athens, but Paul’s concern before Jew and Greek was this, “whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel” (v.19). Every time he opened his mouth, before rioting mobs, before kings, during storms at sea, in prison facing death he wanted to be consistently fearless.

There can be no response to the gospel without this, and the preacher is concerned as to the way men respond to his gospel. His presentation cannot be coldly factual. He appeals and beseeches and entreats. He pleads. He defines the response he is seeking – turning from sin and trusting in the Lord Christ alone – and does all in his power to evoke it. He passionately yearns that his hearers may become disciples. He preaches with emotion, thrilled by the glory of his message, awestruck by the solemnity of man’s predicament, and above all, urgent in his longing that men might turn and live. Every hearer has the right to come to Christ. Every hearer needs to come. Every hearer is commanded to come. Each one must be pled with, and if the sovereignty of God seems to will that the response be otherwise, we do not simply and coldly accept it. We say, ‘Lord, how long?’ (Is 6.11).

If there is a time in the message to be stirred by our great calling, it is when we are pleading with people to change. Was anyone ever stirred to do anything by a man who was not changing himself? Can you arouse men and women if you are not aroused? Can you move them if you are not moved? How does an infantry officer get his men to advance against the enemy? Is it just by coldly giving orders? Or is it by excitedly explaining why this particular battle must be won and what will happen if it is lost? Does he not feelingly explain his tactics before shouting passionately, “Come on now, let’s go”?

Stuart Olyott says, “It is time to stir the feelings! Passion is not unction, but that does not make passion a sin. I am not talking about the artificial passion put on by actors, but that which is the fruit of feeling deeply about obedience to revealed truth. As a preacher, don’t you feel deeply? Isn’t God’s name shamed by the disobedience of the church? Aren’t thousands of professing believers courting sin and thus courting eternal danger? Aren’t countless numbers failing to know the full blessing of God on their lives because of ignorance and confusion? Aren’t there so many others who hear the Word of God every week, but who seem as far from conversion as ever? Isn’t it wonderful to walk with God, to see His Son, to enjoy His peace and experience His providing and leading? Why, then, is the pulpit so emotionally ‘neutral’? Shouldn’t it be a place of encouragement, of joy, of dancing? A place of tears, warning, compassion, pity? A place of anger and denunciation?” So it must be a place of fearless consistency.

4. THE TRUE PREACHER DEPENDS ON GOD.

That’s why Paul says, “Pray also for me.” And then he repeats that plea, “Pray that I may declare it . . .” If he was going to be the sort of Christian ambassador he ought to be then God would have to make him such a man. “I need divine help,” says Paul. Paul had long learned that without Christ he could do nothing. “So ask God to help me,” he urged them. If there was to be a new birth in the congregation then it has to be from above. If there was to be revival then the best comparison would be like a rushing mighty wind – and that wind ‘bloweth where it listeth.’ May it blow on us! Pray for me! Paul longed for divine intervention with its incalculable repercussions, disturbing, and revolutionizing our apathetic land. O God make the voice of the gospel thunder through Wales ! Shake our land to its very foundations.

Paul had told the Ephesians to pray for every kind of Christian, but then he beseeches them not to forget him in their prayers; “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should” (Ephesians 6:19-20). This mighty man of God asked people to pray for him. He had seen the risen Christ on the road to Damascus . He had preached the gospel with the Holy Spirit send down from heaven. He had seen multitudes of men and women converted under his ministry and yet he asked people to pray for him. Why? Because he was conscious that he could only fulfil this work by the blessing of God. Without Christ he could do nothing. Nothing means nothing. None of Paul’s academic brilliance, and past usefulness, and humble sweet personality could avail to save and sanctify men and women. Salvation is of the Lord, so pray for me!

How can I apply that? Surely your pastor needs your prayers. Other Christian leaders need your prayers. I need your prayers. A preacher’s effectiveness doesn’t depend just on talent or even on his own prayers but on the prayers of God’s people. Someone once asked Charles Spurgeon the reason for his success in winning thousands of people to Christ. He replied, “My people pray for me.” It was a correct humble reply; we give many other reasons too, Spurgeon’s grasp of Puritan theology, his passion as a preacher, his voice and eloquence, how he had brought all his gifts to the foot of the cross, his self-discipline, the location of his church right at the heart of the greatest city in the world in the 19th century, but Spurgeon did not want to neglect the crucial part the congregation itself played in his wonderful ministry.

What should you ask God to do for preachers and leaders? That what is described for us here in our text as an all-round, God-appointed minister should be seen increasingly in the pulpits of our land. Pray that God will give them words that will penetrate the heart, words that will deflate man’s pride, words that will kill the cancer of sin, words that will bring hope to the despairing and truth to the ignorant. Give Paul words, and courage to speak them clearly. That’s what Paul wanted. He was in prison, but he didn’t ask people to pray for his freedom. He needed a blanket and some books but he didn’t ask them to pray for abundant wealth for Paul. He was not well, but he didn’t ask for prayers that he would thrive in health. Paul asked people to pray that he could proclaim the mystery of the gospel fearlessly as an ambassador of the mighty God and only Potentate and King of kings and Lord of lords.

We always feel encouraged when someone says, “I pray for you.” A number of you pray for me in the midweek prayer meeting. You prayed for tonight’s meeting that God would give me words and make me fearless. That is why people are here listening, and why I’ve had any divine help in preaching these things. Do you know how relentless it is for a preacher to prepare three messages each week, and to come up with the right words? Do you know how hard it is to be fearless? Boldness doesn’t come naturally to me. I don’t like to offend anyone, and yet if I speak God’s message, some will be offended. Pray that I may be free from concern about human opinion and simply speak God’s message boldly, whatever the reaction might be. Some pastors may get so worn in spirit that they run out of lively words and have no energy left to be bold. Their own prayer life may get dangerously weak, but if fellow believers stand by them and pray for them, the Lord can make them strong and bold again.

The 21st century church in Europe desperately needs pastors and leaders who preach God’s Word loud and clear. As the Bible says, “If the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?” (1 Corinthians 14:8). Pray that preachers will speak the truth as they should: fearlessly, truthfully, lovingly, effectively.

Who can doubt that this is the greatest need in the proclamation of the gospel today? Intelligent, focused, concentrated, persistent prayer so that orthodox truth can be can be turned into a Spirit-charged, life-giving, awakening ministry by such a minister as is described in our text.

March 19 2006 GEOFF THOMAS